July 20 Plot
Overview
 
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, Führer
Führer
Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...

 of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance
German Resistance
The German resistance was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany to Adolf Hitler or the National Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime...

 to overthrow the Nazi-led German government. The failure of both the assassination and the military coup d'état which was planned to follow it led to the arrest of at least 7,000 people by the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

.
Encyclopedia
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, Führer
Führer
Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...

 of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance
German Resistance
The German resistance was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany to Adolf Hitler or the National Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime...

 to overthrow the Nazi-led German government. The failure of both the assassination and the military coup d'état which was planned to follow it led to the arrest of at least 7,000 people by the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

. According to records of the Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 of these were executed, resulting in the destruction of the organized resistance movement in Germany for the remainder of World War II.

Background

Since 1938, conspiratorial groups planning an overthrow of some kind had existed in the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) and in the German Military Intelligence Organization
Abwehr
The Abwehr was a German military intelligence organisation from 1921 to 1944. The term Abwehr was used as a concession to Allied demands that Germany's post-World War I intelligence activities be for "defensive" purposes only...

 (Abwehr). Early leaders of these plots included Brigadier-General Hans Oster
Hans Oster
Hans Oster was a German Army general, deputy head of the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris, and an opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He was a leading figure of the German resistance from 1938 to 1943.-Early career:...

, General Ludwig Beck
Ludwig Beck
Generaloberst Ludwig August Theodor Beck was a German general and Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime in Germany before World War II....

 and Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben
Erwin von Witzleben
Job-Wilhelm Georg Erdmann Erwin von Witzleben was a German army officer and in the Second World War an Army commander and a conspirator in the July 20 Plot.-Early years:...

. Oster was the deputy head of the Military Intelligence Office. Beck was a former Chief-of-Staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

 of the German Army High Command
Oberkommando des Heeres
The Oberkommando des Heeres was Nazi Germany's High Command of the Army from 1936 to 1945. The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht commanded OKH only in theory...

 (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH). Von Witzleben was the former commander of the German 1st Army and the former Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the German Army Command in the West
OB West
The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West (Oberbefehlshaber West (German: initials OB West) was the overall command of the Westheer, the German Armed Forces on the Western Front during World War II. It was directly subordinate to...

 (Oberbefehlshaber West, or OB West). They soon established contacts with several prominent civilians, including Carl Goerdeler, the former mayor of Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, and Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke was a German jurist who, as a draftee in the German Abwehr, acted to subvert German human-rights abuses of people in territories occupied by Germany during World War II and subsequently became a founding member of the Kreisau Circle resistance group, whose members...

, the great-grandnephew of the hero of the Franco-Prussian War
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke was a German Field Marshal. The chief of staff of the Prussian Army for thirty years, he is regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter 19th century, and the creator of a new, more modern method of directing armies in the field...

.

Military conspiratorial groups exchanged ideas with civilian, political and intellectual resistance groups in the Kreisauer Kreis
Kreisau Circle
The Kreisau Circle was the name the Nazi Gestapo gave to a group of German dissidents centered on the Kreisau estate of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke. The Kreisauer Kreis is celebrated as one of the instances of German opposition to the Nazi regime...

 (which met at the von Moltke estate in Kreisau) and in other secret circles. Moltke was against killing Hitler; instead, he wanted him placed on trial. Moltke said, "we are all amateurs and would only bungle it". Moltke also believed killing Hitler would be hypocritical. Hitler and National Socialism had turned "wrong-doing" into a system, something which the resistance should avoid.

Plans to stage an overthrow and prevent Hitler from launching a new world war were developed in 1938 and 1939, but were aborted because of the indecision of Army Generals Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

 and Walther von Brauchitsch
Walther von Brauchitsch
Heinrich Alfred Hermann Walther von Brauchitsch was a German field marshal and the Oberbefehlshaber des Heeres in the early years of World War II.-Biography:...

, and the failure of the western powers to oppose Hitler's aggressions until 1939. This first military resistance group delayed their plans after Hitler's extreme popularity following the unexpectedly rapid success in the battle for France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

.
In 1942, a new conspiratorial group formed, led by Colonel Henning von Tresckow
Henning von Tresckow
Generalmajor Herrmann Karl Robert "Henning" von Tresckow was a Major General in the German Wehrmacht who organized German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He attempted to assassinate Hitler in March 1943 and drafted the Valkyrie plan for a coup against the German government...

, a member of Field Marshal Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock
Fedor von Bock was a German Generalfeldmarshall who served in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War. As a leader who lectured his soldiers about the honor of dying for the German Fatherland, he was nicknamed "Der Sterber"...

's staff, who commanded Army Group Centre in Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

. Tresckow systematically recruited oppositionists to the Group’s staff, making it the nerve centre of the Army resistance. Little could be done against Hitler as he was heavily guarded, and none of the plotters could get near enough to him.
During 1942, Oster and Tresckow nevertheless succeeded in rebuilding an effective resistance network. Their most important recruit was General Friedrich Olbricht
Friedrich Olbricht
General Friedrich Olbricht was a German general and one of the plotters involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944.-Early life:...

, head of the General Army Office headquarters at the Bendlerblock
Bendlerblock
The Bendlerblock is a building in Berlin, located on the Stauffenbergstraße , south of the Tiergarten. The building was erected between 1911 and 1914 for the Imperial German Navy Offices. During the Weimar Republic it served as the seat of the Reichswehr command and the Ministry of Defence...

 in central Berlin, who controlled an independent system of communications to reserve units throughout Germany. Linking this asset to Tresckow's resistance group in Army Group Centre created a viable coup apparatus.

In late 1942, Tresckow and Olbricht formulated a plan to assassinate Hitler and stage an overthrow during Hitler's visit to the headquarters of Army Group Centre at Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

 in March 1943, by placing a bomb on his plane. The bomb failed to detonate, and a second attempt a week later with Hitler at an exhibition of captured Soviet weaponry in Berlin also failed. These failures demoralized the conspirators. During 1943 Tresckow tried without success to recruit senior Army field commanders such as Field Marshal Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein was a field marshal in World War II. He became one of the most prominent commanders of Germany's World War II armed forces...

 and Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

, to support a seizure of power. Tresckow in particular worked on his Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Centre, Field Marshal Günther von Kluge
Günther von Kluge
Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

 to persuade him to move against Hitler and at times succeeded in gaining his consent, only to find him indecisive at the last minute.

Stauffenberg joins the conspirators

By mid-1943 the tide of war was turning decisively against Germany. The Army plotters and their civilian allies became convinced that Hitler must be assassinated so that a government acceptable to the western Allies could be formed and a separate peace negotiated in time to prevent a Soviet invasion of Germany. In August 1943 Tresckow met a young staff officer, Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Claus Philipp Maria Justinian Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg commonly referred to as Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a German army officer and Catholic aristocrat who was one of the leading members of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from...

, for the first time. Badly wounded in North Africa, Count von Stauffenberg was a political conservative, a zealous German nationalist, and a Catholic. Since the beginning of 1942 he shared the widespread conviction among Army officers that Germany was being led to disaster and that Hitler must be removed from power. For some time his religious scruples had prevented him from coming to the conclusion that assassination was the correct way to achieve this. After the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

 in December 1942, however, he came to the conclusion that not assassinating Hitler would be a greater moral evil. He brought a new tone of decisiveness to the ranks of the resistance movement. When Tresckow was assigned to the Eastern Front, Stauffenberg took the responsibility for planning and executing Hitler's assassination.

A new plan

Olbricht now put forward a new strategy for staging a coup against Hitler. The Reserve Army (Ersatzheer) had an operational plan called Operation Walküre
Operation Valkyrie
Operation Valkyrie was an emergency continuity of government operations plan developed in Nazi Germany for the Territorial Reserve Army of Germany to execute and implement in case of a general breakdown in civil order of the nation...

 (Valkyrie
Valkyrie
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who decides who dies in battle. Selecting among half of those who die in battle , the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin...

), which was to be used in the event that the disruption caused by the Allied bombing of German cities caused a breakdown in law and order, or an uprising by the millions of slave laborers from occupied countries now being used in German factories. Olbricht suggested that this plan could be used to mobilize the Reserve Army for the purpose of the coup.
In August and September 1943, Colonel Henning von Tresckow
Henning von Tresckow
Generalmajor Herrmann Karl Robert "Henning" von Tresckow was a Major General in the German Wehrmacht who organized German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He attempted to assassinate Hitler in March 1943 and drafted the Valkyrie plan for a coup against the German government...

 drafted the "revised" Valkyrie plan and new supplementary orders. A secret declaration began with words: "The Führer Adolf Hitler is dead! A treacherous group of party leaders has attempted to exploit the situation by attacking our embattled soldiers from the rear in order to seize power for themselves." Detailed instructions were written for occupation of government ministries in Berlin, Himmler's headquarters in East Prussia, radio stations and telephone offices, and other Nazi apparatus through military districts, and concentration camps. Previously, it was believed that Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg was mainly responsible for the Valkyrie plan, but documents recovered by the Soviet Union after the war and released in 2007 suggest the plan that was detailed was developed by Tresckow by autumn of 1943. All written information was handled by Tresckow's wife, Erika, and by Margarete von Oven, his secretary. Both women wore gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints.
Operation Valkyrie could only be put into effect by General Friedrich Fromm
Friedrich Fromm
Friedrich Fromm was a German army officer. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross.-Early life:Fromm was born in Charlottenburg...

, commander of the Reserve Army, so he must either be won over to the conspiracy or in some way neutralized if the plan was to succeed. Fromm, like many senior officers, knew in general about the military conspiracies against Hitler but neither supported them nor reported them to the Gestapo.

Failed Attempts

During 1943 and early 1944 there were at least four failed attempts organized by von Tresckow and von Stauffenberg to get one of the military conspirators near enough to Hitler for long enough to kill him with hand grenades, bombs or a revolver:
  • in March 1943 by Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff
    Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff
    Rudolf Christoph Freiherr von Gersdorff was a military officer in Germany’s Weimar-period Reichswehr and Nazi-period Wehrmacht. He attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler by suicide bombing in March 1943; the plan failed but he was undetected. In April 1943 he discovered the mass graves of the...

  • in late November 1943 by Axel Freiherr von dem Bussche-Streithorst
    Axel Freiherr von dem Bussche-Streithorst
    Axel Freiherr von dem Bussche-Streithorst , usually referred to as Axel von dem Bussche in English, was a German nobleman, professional Army officer and member of the German Resistance...

  • in February 1944 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin
    Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin
    Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin is a former German Army officer and publisher. A member of the von Kleist family, his parents were active in the German resistance against Adolf Hitler and participated in the July 20 Plot...

  • on 11 March 1944 by Eberhard Freiherr von Breitenbuch
    Eberhard von Breitenbuch
    Eberhard von Breitenbuch was a German cavalry officer who served in Army Group Centre of the Wehrmacht during World War II with the rank of Rittmeister and took part in the military-based conspiracy against Adolf Hitler that culminated in the July 20 Plot.He was born in Dietzhausen near Suhl,...



But this task was becoming increasingly difficult. As the war situation deteriorated, Hitler no longer appeared in public and rarely visited Berlin. He spent most of his time at his headquarters at the Wolfschanze (Wolf's Lair) near Rastenburg in East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

, with occasional breaks at his Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

n mountain retreat Obersalzberg
Obersalzberg
Obersalzberg is a mountainside retreat situated above the market town of Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany, located about southeast of Munich, close to the border with Austria...

 near Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden is a municipality in the German Bavarian Alps. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich...

. In both places he was heavily guarded and rarely saw people he did not know or trust. Himmler and the Gestapo were increasingly suspicious of plots against Hitler, and specifically suspected the officers of the General Staff, which was indeed the source of many active conspiracies against Hitler's life.

Now or never, “whatever the cost”

By the summer of 1944, the Gestapo was closing in on the conspirators. There was a sense that time was running out, both on the battlefield, where the Eastern front was in full retreat and where the Allies had landed in France on 6 June, and in Germany, where the resistance's room for manoeuvre was rapidly contracting. The belief that this was the last chance for action seized the conspirators. By this time, the core of the conspirators had begun to think of themselves as doomed men, whose actions were more symbolic than real. The purpose of the conspiracy came to be seen by some of them as saving the honor of themselves, their families, the army, and Germany through a grand, if futile gesture, rather than actually altering the course of history.

The conspirators scored a major coup in early July when they managed to initiate Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

, the famed "Desert Fox," into their ranks. Rommel was by far the most popular officer in Germany, and was also the first active-duty field marshal to lend support to the plot (Witzleben had been inactive since 1942). Although Rommel felt he had to, as he put it, "come to the rescue of Germany," he thought killing Hitler would make him a martyr. Instead, he wanted Hitler arrested and hauled before a court-martial for his many crimes.

When Stauffenberg sent Tresckow a message through Lieutenant Heinrich Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort
Heinrich Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort
Heinrich Ahasverus Graf von Lehndorff-Steinort was a member of the July 20 Plot against Adolf Hitler.- Biography :...

 asking whether there was any reason for trying to assassinate Hitler given that no political purpose would be served, Tresckow's response was: "The assassination must be attempted, coûte que coûte [whatever the cost]. Even if it fails, we must take action in Berlin. For the practical purpose no longer matters; what matters now is that the German resistance movement must take the plunge before the eyes of the world and of history. Compared to that, nothing else matters."
Himmler had at least one conversation with a known oppositionist when, in August 1943, the Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n Finance Minister Johannes Popitz
Johannes Popitz
Johannes Popitz was a Prussian finance minister and a member of the German Resistance against Nazi Germany.- Life :...

, who was involved in Goerdeler's network, came to see him and offered him the support of the opposition if he would make a move to displace Hitler and secure a negotiated end to the war. Nothing came of this meeting, but Popitz was not arrested and Himmler apparently did nothing to track down the resistance network which he knew was operating within the state bureaucracy. It is possible that Himmler, who by late 1943 knew that the war was unwinnable, allowed the plot to go ahead in the knowledge that if it succeeded he would be Hitler's successor, and could then bring about a peace settlement. Popitz was not alone in seeing in Himmler a potential ally. General von Bock advised Tresckow to seek his support, but there is no evidence that he did so. Goerdeler was apparently also in indirect contact with Himmler via a mutual acquaintance Carl Langbehn
Carl Langbehn
Carl Langbehn was a German lawyer and member of the resistance to Nazism.He was born in Padang, Sumatra. During the Weimar Republic he was a members of the German People's Party. In 1933 he joined the Nazi Party, but during the 1930s he began to grow increasingly critical of the regime...

. Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

 biographer Heinz Höhne
Heinz Höhne
Heinz Höhne was a German journalist and historian who specialized in Nazi and intelligence history....

 suggests that Canaris and Himmler were working together to bring about a change of regime, but all of this remains speculation.

On the other hand, Tresckow and the inner circle of plotters had no intention of removing Hitler just to see him replaced by the dreaded and ruthless SS chief, and the plan was to kill them both if possible – to the extent that Stauffenberg's first attempt on 11 July was aborted because Himmler was not present.

Countdown to Stauffenberg's attempt

1–6 July

On Saturday 1 July 1944 Stauffenberg was appointed chief of staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

 to General Fromm at the Reserve Army headquarters on Bendlerstraße in central Berlin. This position enabled Stauffenberg to attend Hitler's military conferences, either at the Wolfsschanze
Wolfsschanze
Wolf's Lair is the standard English name for Wolfsschanze, Adolf Hitler's first World War II Eastern Front military headquarters, one of several Führerhauptquartier or FHQs located in various parts of Europe...

in East Prussia
East Prussia
East Prussia is the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast from the 13th century to the end of World War II in May 1945. From 1772–1829 and 1878–1945, the Province of East Prussia was part of the German state of Prussia. The capital city was Königsberg.East Prussia...

 or at Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden
Berchtesgaden is a municipality in the German Bavarian Alps. It is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich...

, and would thus give him an opportunity, perhaps the last that would present itself, to kill Hitler with a bomb or a pistol. Meanwhile new key allies had been gained. These included General Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, was a German general and a member of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, the German military commander in France, who would take control in Paris when Hitler was killed and, it was hoped, negotiate an immediate armistice with the invading Allied armies.

7–14 July

The plot was now fully prepared. On 7 July 1944 General Stieff
Helmuth Stieff
Helmuth Stieff was a German general and a member of the OKH during World War II. He took part in attempts by the German resistance to assassinate Hitler, on July 7 and on July 20, 1944....

 was to kill Hitler at a display of new uniforms at Klessheim castle
Schloss Klessheim
Schloss Klessheim is a Baroque palace situated west of Salzburg in the Austrian commune of Wals-Siezenheim. A former summer residence of the Archbishops of Salzburg, it is now used by Salzburg Casino.-History:...

 near Salzburg
Salzburg
-Population development:In 1935, the population significantly increased when Salzburg absorbed adjacent municipalities. After World War II, numerous refugees found a new home in the city. New residential space was created for American soldiers of the postwar Occupation, and could be used for...

. However, Stieff felt unable to kill Hitler. Stauffenberg now decided to do both: to assassinate Hitler, wherever he was, and to manage the plot in Berlin. On 11 July Stauffenberg attended Hitler's conferences carrying a bomb in his briefcase, but because the conspirators had decided that Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 and Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 should be killed simultaneously if the planned mobilization of Operation Valkyrie was to have a chance to succeed, he held back at the last minute because Himmler was not present. In fact, it was unusual for Himmler to attend military conferences.

15 July: Aborted attempt

By 15 July, when Stauffenberg again flew to the Wolfsschanze, this condition had been dropped. The plan was for Stauffenberg to plant the briefcase with the bomb in Hitler's conference room with a timer running, excuse himself from the meeting, wait for the explosion, then fly back to Berlin and join the other plotters at the Bendlerblock. Operation Valkyrie would be mobilized, the Reserve Army would take control of Germany and the other Nazi leaders would be arrested. Beck would be appointed provisional head of state, Goerdeler would be chancellor, and Witzleben would be commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Again on 15 July the attempt was called off at the last minute. Himmler and Göring were present, but Hitler was called out of the room at the last moment. Stauffenberg was able to intercept the bomb and prevent its discovery.

Operation Valkyrie initiated

On 18 July rumors reached Stauffenberg that the Gestapo had wind of the conspiracy and that he might be arrested at any time – this was apparently not true, but there was a sense that the net was closing in and that the next opportunity to kill Hitler must be taken because there might not be another. At 10:00AM on 20 July Stauffenberg flew back to the Wolfsschanze for another Hitler military conference, once again with a bomb in his briefcase.

Around 12:30PM as the conference began, Stauffenberg made an excuse to use a washroom in Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

's office where he used pliers to crush the end of a pencil detonator
Pencil detonator
A pencil detonator or time pencil is a time fuze designed to be connected to a detonator or short length of safety fuse. They are about the same size and shape as a pencil, hence the name. They were introduced during World War II.- No. 10 delay switch :...

 inserted into a 1 kilograms (2.2 lb) block of plastic explosive
Plastic explosive
Plastic explosive is a specialised form of explosive material. It is a soft and hand moldable solid material. Plastic explosives are properly known as putty explosives within the field of explosives engineering....

 wrapped in brown paper, that was prepared by Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven. The detonator consisted of a thin copper tube containing acid that would take about ten minutes to silently eat through wire holding back the firing pin
Firing pin
A firing pin or striker is part of the firing mechanism used in a firearm or explosive device e.g. an M14 landmine or bomb fuze. Firing pins may take many forms, though the types used in landmines, bombs, grenade fuzes or other single-use devices generally have a sharpened point...

 from the percussion cap
Percussion cap
The percussion cap, introduced around 1830, was the crucial invention that enabled muzzleloading firearms to fire reliably in any weather.Before this development, firearms used flintlock ignition systems which produced flint-on-steel sparks to ignite a pan of priming powder and thereby fire the...

. He then placed the primed bomb quickly inside his briefcase, having been told his presence was required. He entered the conference room and with the unwitting assistance of Major Ernst John von Freyend
Ernst John von Freyend
Lieutenant Colonel Ernst John von Freyend was a German Oberkommando der Wehrmacht officer who served during World War II as the adjutant to Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel...

 placed his briefcase under the table around which Hitler and more than 20 officers had gathered. After a few minutes, Stauffenberg received a planned phone call and left the room. It is presumed that Colonel Heinz Brandt
Heinz Brandt
Generalmajor Heinz Brandt was a German Wehrmacht staff officer who served during World War II as an aide to Generalleutnant Adolf Heusinger, who was the head of the operations unit of the General Staff...

, who was standing next to Hitler, used his foot to move the briefcase aside by pushing it behind the leg of the conference table, thus unwittingly deflecting the blast from Hitler but causing his own death with the loss of one of his legs when the bomb detonated.
Between 12:40 and 12:50 the bomb detonated, demolishing the conference room. Three officers and the stenographer were seriously injured and died soon after. Hitler survived, as did everyone else who was shielded from the blast by the conference table leg. Hitler's trousers were singed and tattered and he suffered from a perforated eardrum, as did most of the other 24 people in the room.

Escape from the Wolf's Lair and flight to Berlin

Stauffenberg, hearing the explosion and seeing the smoke issuing from the broken windows of the concrete dispatch barracks, assumed that Hitler was dead, climbed into his staff car with his aide Werner von Haeften
Werner von Haeften
- See also :* German Resistance* List of members of the July 20 plot...

 and managed to bluff his way past three checkpoints to exit the Wolfsschanze complex. Werner von Haeften then tossed a second unprimed bomb into the forest as they made a dash for Rastenburg airfield, reaching it before it could be realized that Stauffenberg could be responsible for the explosion. By 13:00 hours he was airborne in a Ju-52 arranged by General Eduard Wagner
Eduard Wagner
General Eduard Wagner was a German Artillery officer who was the quartermaster-general of the German Army and a member of the resistance to Adolf Hitler....

.
By the time Stauffenberg's aircraft reached Berlin about 16:00, General Erich Fellgiebel
Erich Fellgiebel
Fritz Erich Fellgiebel was a career German Army officer and a "July 20th" conspirator in the plot to assassinate Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.-Military career:...

, an officer at the Wolfsschanze who was in on the plot, had phoned the Bendlerblock and told the plotters that Hitler had survived the explosion. As a result, the Berlin cohort to mobilize Operation Valkyrie would have no chance of succeeding once the officers of the Reserve Army knew that Hitler was alive. There was more confusion when Stauffenberg’s aircraft landed and he phoned from the airport to say that Hitler was in fact dead. The Bendlerblock plotters did not know whom to believe. Finally at 16:00 Olbricht issued the orders for Operation Valkyrie to be mobilized. The vacillating General Fromm, however, phoned Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

 at the Wolf's Lair and was assured that Hitler was alive. Keitel demanded to know Stauffenberg's whereabouts. This told Fromm that the plot had been traced to his headquarters, and that he was in mortal danger. Fromm replied that he thought Stauffenberg was with Hitler.
Meanwhile, Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, was a German general and a member of the July 20 Plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, military governor of occupied France, managed to disarm the SD
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 and SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

, and captured most of their leadership. He travelled to Günther von Kluge
Günther von Kluge
Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

's headquarters and asked him to contact the Allies, only to be informed that Hitler was alive.
At 16:40 Stauffenberg and Haeften arrived at the Bendlerblock. Fromm, presumably to protect himself, changed sides and attempted to have Stauffenberg arrested. Olbricht and Stauffenberg restrained him at gunpoint and Olbricht then appointed General Erich Hoepner
Erich Hoepner
Erich Hoepner was a German general in World War II. A successful panzer leader, Hoepner was executed after the failed 20 July Plot in 1944.- Life :Hoepner was born in Frankfurt an der Oder, Brandenburg...

 to take over his duties. By this time Himmler had taken charge of the situation and had issued orders countermanding Olbricht's mobilization of Operation Valkyrie. In many places the coup was going ahead, led by officers who believed that Hitler was dead. City Commandant, and conspirator, General Paul von Hase
Paul von Hase
Karl Paul Immanuel von Hase was a German career soldier and figured among the members of the resistance against Adolf Hitler's Nazi régime.-Biography:Hase was born in Hanover...

 ordered the Wachbataillon Großdeutschland, under the command of Major Otto Ernst Remer
Otto Ernst Remer
Otto-Ernst Remer was a German Wehrmacht officer who played a decisive role in stopping the 1944 20 July Plot against Adolf Hitler. During the war he was wounded nine times in combat...

, to secure the Wilhelmstraße
Wilhelmstraße
The Wilhelmstrasse is a street in the center of Berlin, the capital of Germany. Between the mid 19th century and 1945, it was the administrative centre, first of the Kingdom of Prussia and then of the unified German state, housing in particular the Reich Chancellery and the Foreign Office...

 and arrest Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

. In Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, and many other places troops occupied Nazi Party offices and arrested Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...

s and SS officers.

The coup fails

At around 18:00 the commander of Military District (Wehrkreis) III (Berlin) General Joachim von Kortzfleisch
Joachim von Kortzfleisch
General Joachim Otto August Achatius Kortzfleisch was a German army officer who was the commander of the defense group III and had a role in ensuring the failure of the attempted coup after the July 20 Plot attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler.-Biography:Joachim von Kortzfleisch was born into an...

 was summoned to the Bendlerblock but he angrily refused to obey Olbricht's orders and kept shouting "the Führer is alive" so he was arrested and held under guard. General Karl Freiherr von Thüngen
Karl Freiherr von Thüngen
Lieutenant General Karl Freiherr von Thüngen was a German army officer who was the inspector of the army in Berlin andwas executed after the failed July 20 Plot in 1944....

 was appointed in his place, but he also proved to be of little help. General Fritz Lindemann
Fritz Lindemann
General Fritz Lindemann was a German Artillery officer and member of the resistance to Adolf Hitler.He was born in Charlottenburg, Berlin. After service in the World War I he was a temporary member of the German peace delegation in Versailles...

 who it was intended would make a proclamation to the German people over the radio failed to appear and as he held the only copy, Beck had to work on a new one.
The decisive moment came at 19:00, when Hitler was sufficiently recovered to make phone calls. He was able to phone Goebbels at the Propaganda Ministry. Goebbels arranged for Hitler to speak to Major Remer, commander of the troops surrounding the Ministry. After assuring him that he was still alive, Hitler ordered Remer to regain control of the situation in Berlin. Major Remer ordered his troops to surround and seal off the Bendlerblock, but not to enter the buildings. At 20:00 a furious Witzleben arrived at the Bendlerblock and had a bitter argument with Stauffenberg, who was still insisting that the coup could go ahead. Witzleben left shortly afterwards. At around this time the planned seizure of power in Paris was aborted when Field Marshal Günther von Kluge
Günther von Kluge
Günther Adolf Ferdinand “Hans” von Kluge was a German military leader. He was born in Posen into a Prussian military family. Kluge rose to the rank of Field Marshal in the Wehrmacht. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords...

, who had recently been appointed commander-in-chief in the west, learned that Hitler was alive.

As Remer regained control of the city and word spread that Hitler was still alive, the less resolute members of the conspiracy in Berlin also now began to change sides. Fighting broke out in the Bendlerblock between officers supporting and opposing the coup, and Stauffenberg was wounded. By 23:00 Fromm had regained control, hoping by a show of zealous loyalty to save himself. Beck, realizing the situation was hopeless, shot himself—the first of many suicides in the coming days. Although at first Beck only just managed to seriously wound himself, he was shot in the neck by soldiers. Fromm convened an impromptu court martial consisting of himself, and sentenced Olbricht, Stauffenberg, Haeften and another officer, Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim
Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim
Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim was a German officer and a resistance fighter in Nazi Germany involved in the 20 July plot against Adolf Hitler.-Biography:...

, to death. At 00:10 on 21 July they were executed in the courtyard outside, possibly to prevent them from revealing Fromm's involvement. Others would have been executed as well, but at 00:30 the SS, led by Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

, arrived and further executions were forbidden. Fromm went off to see Goebbels to claim credit for suppressing the coup. Goebbels' only reply to him was "You've been in a damned hurry to get your witnesses below ground." He was immediately arrested and later was executed in March 1945 on charges he had failed to report and prevent the coup on 20 July.

Alternative possibilities

In 2005, the Military Channel
Military Channel
The Military Channel is a cable and satellite television network which broadcasts television programming related to the military, warfare and military history. It is part of the group of networks owned by Discovery Communications within the United States and Canada...

's show Unsolved History
Unsolved History
Unsolved History is an American documentary television series that aired from 2002 to 2005. The program was produced by MorningStar Entertainment, Termite Art Productions, and others for the Discovery Channel. The series lasted over three seasons and had a total of 47 episodes, in which a team of...

aired an episode titled Killing Hitler in which each scenario was re-created using live explosives and test dummies. The results supported the conclusion that Hitler would have been killed had any of the three other scenarios occurred:
  • both bombs detonated;
  • the meeting was held inside Hitler's bunker;
  • the briefcase was not moved.


A 2010 episode of the Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel is an American satellite and cable specialty channel , founded by John Hendricks and distributed by Discovery Communications. It is a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav...

 show MythBusters
MythBusters
MythBusters is a science entertainment TV program created and produced by Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is screened by numerous international broadcasters, including Discovery Channel Australia, Discovery Channel Latin America, Discovery Channel Canada, Quest...

explored the possible consequences of the bomb exploding inside the bunker, re-creating the scenario using explosives, test dummies, and pressure sensors. Hosts Adam Savage
Adam Savage
Adam Whitney Savage is an American industrial design and special effects designer/fabricator, actor, educator, and co-host of the Discovery Channel television series MythBusters. His model work has appeared in major films, including Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and The Matrix...

 and Jamie Hyneman
Jamie Hyneman
James Franklin "Jamie" Hyneman is an American special effects expert, best known for being the co-host of the television series MythBusters. He is also the owner of M5 Industries, the special effects workshop where MythBusters is filmed...

 concluded that Hitler could have survived in either the conference room or the bunker. The episode employed two shipping containers to compare the effects of an explosive in an above-ground conference room to an equal explosive in an in-ground room of the same size. Differences between the MythBusters in-ground test and the historical bunker include the construction of the walls and the placement of the structure. The MythBusters sheet-metal shipping container was placed in a trench cut into dirt, with a thin layer of dirt on top and railroad ties placed against the doors. The explosive force threw away the covering layer of dirt and railroad ties. The result found the force in the in-ground test was higher than above-ground but the difference was not enough to be fatal.

Participants at the meeting

  • Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

  • Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel
    Wilhelm Keitel
    Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

  • General Alfred Jodl
    Alfred Jodl
    Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl was a German military commander, attaining the position of Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command during World War II, acting as deputy to Wilhelm Keitel...

  • General Walter Warlimont
    Walter Warlimont
    Walter Warlimont was a German officer known for his role in the OKW inner circle .-World War I:...

  • Franz von Sonnleithner
    Franz von Sonnleithner
    Franz Edler von Sonnleithner was a diplomat who acted as Ribbentrop's representative in Adolf Hitler's headquarters during the later years of the war with the rank of Minister.-Life:...

  • Major Herbert Büchs
  • Lieutenant-General Hermann Fegelein
    Hermann Fegelein
    SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein was a General of the Waffen-SS in Nazi Germany, a member of Adolf Hitler's entourage, brother-in-law to Eva Braun through his marriage to her sister, Gretl, and husband of the sister-in-law to Adolf Hitler through Hitler's marriage to Eva...

  • Colonel Nicolaus von Below
  • Rear Admiral Hans-Erich Voss
    Hans-Erich Voss
    Hans-Erich Voss was a German Vice Admiral and one of the final occupants of the Führerbunker during the battle of Berlin in 1945....

  • Otto Günsche
    Otto Günsche
    Otto Günsche was a Sturmbannführer in the Waffen-SS and a member of 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler before he became Adolf Hitler's personal adjutant. He was captured by soldiers of the Red Army on 2 May 1945...

     (Hitler's adjutant)

  • Major-General Walter Scherff
    Walter Scherff
    Major General Walter Scherff was a German army officer and military historian appointed by Adolf Hitler to the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in May 1942 to compile the history of the war....

  • Major Ernst John von Freyend
    Ernst John von Freyend
    Lieutenant Colonel Ernst John von Freyend was a German Oberkommando der Wehrmacht officer who served during World War II as the adjutant to Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel...

  • Rear Admiral Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer
    Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer
    Karl-Jesco Otto Robert von Puttkamer was a German rear admiral who was naval adjutant to Nazi Germany's leader Adolf Hitler during World War II.-Biography:...

  • General Walther Buhle
    Walther Buhle
    General Walther Buhle was an infantry General in the German army who was the Chief of the Army Staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht from 1942 and chief of armaments for the army in 1945....

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Heinrich Borgmann
    Heinrich Borgmann
    Colonel Heinrich Borgmann was a German Army officer who served in the Wehrmacht during World War II. He is notable for being awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and for being seriously injured by the 20 July plot bomb planted by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg at the...

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Heinz Waizenegger
  • General Karl Bodenschatz
    Karl Bodenschatz
    General Karl-Heinrich Bodenschatz was a German military officer who was the adjutant to Manfred von Richthofen in World War I and the liaison officer between Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler in World War II....

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg
  • Lieutenant-General Adolf Heusinger
    Adolf Heusinger
    Adolf Heusinger was a German General. He briefly served as Chief of the General Staff of the Army during World War II and served as the first Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, the West German armed forces, from 1957 to 1961...

  • Stenographer Heinz Buchholz


All at the meeting except Keitel suffered perforated eardrums and Hitler had 200 wood splinters removed from his legs, his hair was singed and his uniform torn to ribbons. Scherff, von Puttkamer, Borgmann, Bodenschatz, Buhle, Jodl and Heusinger were also injured.

Aftermath

Over the following weeks Himmler's Gestapo, driven by a furious Hitler, rounded up nearly everyone who had the remotest connection with the plot. The discovery of letters and diaries in the homes and offices of those arrested revealed the plots of 1938, 1939 and 1943, and this led to further rounds of arrests, including that of Franz Halder
Franz Halder
Franz Halder was a German General and the head of the Army General Staff from 1938 until September, 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler.-Early life:...

, who finished the war in a concentration camp. Under Himmler's new Sippenhaft
Sippenhaft
Sippenhaft or Sippenhaftung was a form of collective punishment practised in Nazi Germany towards the end of the Second World War. It was a legalized practice in which relatives of persons accused of crimes against the state were held to share the responsibility for those crimes and subject to...

 (blood guilt) laws, all the relatives of the principal plotters were also arrested.

Eventually some 5,000 people were arrested and about 200 were executed. Not all of them were connected with the plot, since the Gestapo used the occasion to settle scores with many other people suspected of opposition sympathies. The British radio also named possible suspects who had not yet been implicated but then were arrested.

Very few of the plotters tried to escape or to deny their guilt when arrested. Those who survived interrogation were given perfunctory trials before the People's Court (Volksgerichtshof), a kangaroo court
Kangaroo court
A kangaroo court is "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted".The outcome of a trial by kangaroo court is essentially determined in advance, usually for the purpose of ensuring conviction, either by going through the motions of manipulated procedure or...

 that always decided in favor of the prosecution. The court's president, Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler was a prominent and notorious Nazi lawyer and judge. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the People's Court , which was set up outside constitutional authority...

, was a fanatical Nazi seen shouting furiously and insulting the accused in the trial, which was filmed for propaganda purposes. The first trials were held on 7 August and 8 August 1944. Hitler had ordered that those found guilty be "hanged like cattle".

Many people took their own lives prior to either their trial or their execution, including Kluge, who was accused of having knowledge of the plot beforehand and not revealing it to Hitler. Stülpnagel also tried to commit suicide, but survived and was hanged.

While Stülpnagel was being treated, he blurted out Rommel's name. A few days later, Stülpnagel's personal adviser, Caesar von Hofacker
Caesar von Hofacker
Caesar von Hofacker was a German Lieutenant Colonel and member of the 20 July plot against Adolf Hitler....

, admitted under gruesome torture that Rommel was an active member of the conspiracy. The extent to which Rommel had been involved has been debated, but many historians have concluded that he at least knew of the plot even if he wasn't involved directly. Hitler, however, knew it would cause a major scandal to have the popular Rommel branded as a traitor. With this in mind, he opted to give Rommel the option of suicide via cyanide or a public trial by Freisler's People's Court. Had Rommel chosen to stand trial, his family and staff would have been executed along with him. Knowing that being hauled before the People's Court was tantamount to a death sentence, Rommel committed suicide on 14 October 1944. He was buried with full military honors; his role in the conspiracy didn't come to light until after the war.

Tresckow also killed himself the day after the failed plot by use of a hand grenade in no man's land between Russian and German lines. Before his death, Tresckow said to Fabian von Schlabrendorff
Fabian von Schlabrendorff
Fabian Ludwig Georg Adolf Kurt von Schlabrendorff , was a German jurist, soldier and member of the resistance against Adolf Hitler....

:
The whole world will vilify us now, but I am still totally convinced that we did the right thing. Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the world. When, in few hours' time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify what I did in the struggle against Hitler. God promised Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

 that He would not destroy Sodom
Sodom and Gomorrah
Sodom and Gomorrah were cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis and later expounded upon throughout the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and Deuterocanonical sources....

 if just ten righteous men could be found in the city, and so I hope that for our sake God will not destroy Germany. None of us can bewail his own death; those who consented to join our circle put on the robe of Nessus. A human being's moral integrity begins when he is prepared to sacrifice his life for his convictions.


Fromm's attempt to win favor by executing Stauffenberg and others on the night of 20 July had merely exposed his own previous lack of action and apparent failure to report the plot. Having been arrested on 21 July, Fromm was later convicted and sentenced to death by the People's Court. Despite his involvement in the conspiracy, his formal sentence charged him with poor performance in his duties. He was executed in Brandenburg an der Havel. Hitler personally commuted his death sentence from hanging to the "more honorable" firing squad. Erwin Planck
Erwin Planck
Erwin Planck was a German politician, and a resistance fighter in the Third Reich.Born in Berlin, Erwin Planck was theoretical physicist Max Planck's and his first wife's fourth child. After his Abitur in 1911, Planck went into the military and pursued a career as an officer...

, the son of the famous physicist Max Planck
Max Planck
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, ForMemRS, was a German physicist who actualized the quantum physics, initiating a revolution in natural science and philosophy. He is regarded as the founder of the quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.-Life and career:Planck came...

, was executed for his involvement.

The Kaltenbrunner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner was an Austrian-born senior official of Nazi Germany during World War II. Between January 1943 and May 1945, he held the offices of Chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt , President of Interpol and, as a Obergruppenführer und General der Polizei und Waffen-SS, he was the...

 Report to Adolf Hitler dated 29 November 1944 on the background of the plot, states that the Pope was somehow a conspirator, specifically naming Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII
The Venerable Pope Pius XII , born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli , reigned as Pope, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City State, from 2 March 1939 until his death in 1958....

, as being a party in the attempt. Evidence indicates that 20 July plotters Colonel Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven, Colonel Erwin von Lahousen
Erwin von Lahousen
Generalmajor Erwin von Lahousen was a high-ranking Abwehr official during World War II, as well as a member of the German Resistance and a key player in attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler on March 13, 1943 and July 20, 1944.- Background :...

 and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Canaris
Wilhelm Franz Canaris was a German admiral, head of the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, from 1935 to 1944 and member of the German Resistance.- Early life and World War I :...

 were involved in the foiling of Hitler's alleged plot to kidnap or murder Pope Pius XII
Alleged plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII
Several authors have alleged a plot to kidnap Pope Pius XII by the Nazis when they occupied Rome during World War II. SS General Karl Wolff stated that he had been ordered on September 13, 1943 to kidnap the pope....

 in 1943, when Canaris reported the plot to Italian counterintelligence officer General Cesare Amè, who passed on the information.

Arthur Nebe
Arthur Nebe
SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe was a member of the NSDAP party with card number 574,307. In July 1931, he joined the SS and his membership number was 280,152. His early career included the Berlin position of Police Commissioner in the 1920s...

 was implicated in the plot due to his anti-Nazi feelings, even though he was a full member of the SS and had even commanded an Einsatzgruppe
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

. Nebe's "fall from grace" was considered due to his many years as a civilian police detective
Detective
A detective is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private person. The latter may be known as private investigators or "private eyes"...

 and how he saw most SS security police
Security police
In some countries, including the United States, security police are those persons, employed by or for a governmental agency, who provide police and security services to those agencies' properties....

 as incompetent. Nebe himself was quoted, upon investigating the death of Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

, that the Gestapo seemed more concerned with reprisals than actually investigating the crime.

A member of the SA convicted of participating in the plot was Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf
Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf
Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf was a leading figure in the Nazi regime.-Early life:Helldorf was born in Merseburg, a landowner's son, Helldorf served as a lieutenant from 1915 in the First World War, and from 1918 was a member of the Prussian state assembly.-Berlin chief of police:Already by...

, who was the Orpo Police Chief of Berlin and had been in contact with members of the resistance since before the war. Collaborating closely with Nebe, he was supposed to direct all police forces in Berlin to stand down and not interfere in the military actions to seize the government. However, his actions on 20 July had not much influence on the events. For his involvement in the conspiracy, he was later arrested, convicted of treason and executed.
After 3 February 1945, when Freisler was killed in an American air raid, there were no more formal trials, but as late as April, with the war weeks away from its end, Canaris' diary was found, and many more people were implicated. Executions continued to the last days of the war.

The trials and executions were reportedly filmed and later reviewed by Hitler and his entourage. These films were later edited by Goebbels into a 30-minute movie and shown to cadets at the Lichterfelde cadet school, but viewers supposedly walked out of the screening in disgust.

Hitler took his survival to be a "divine moment in history", and commissioned a special decoration to be made. The result was the Wound Badge
Wound Badge
Wound Badge was a German military award for wounded or frost-bitten soldiers of Imperial German Army in World War I, the Reichswehr between the wars, and the Wehrmacht, SS and the auxiliary service organizations during the Second World War. After March 1943, due to the increasing number of Allied...

 of 20 July 1944, which Hitler awarded to those who were with him in the conference room at the time. This badge was struck in three values; Gold, Silver and Black, a total of 100 badges, and 47 are believed to have been awarded, along with an ornate award document for each recipient personally signed by Hitler, making them among the rarest decorations to have been awarded by the Third Reich.

For his role in stopping the coup, Major Remer was promoted to Colonel and ended the war as a Major General. After the war he co-founded the Socialist Reich Party
Socialist Reich Party
The Socialist Reich Party of Germany was a West German far-right political party founded in the aftermath of the World War II in 1949 as an openly Nazi orientated split-off from the national conservative German Right Party...

 and remained a prominent Neo-Nazi and advocate of Holocaust Denial
Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial is the act of denying the genocide of Jews in World War II, usually referred to as the Holocaust. The key claims of Holocaust denial are: the German Nazi government had no official policy or intention of exterminating Jews, Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas...

 until his death in 1997.

Philipp von Boeselager
Philipp von Boeselager
Oberstleutnant Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager was the second-to-last surviving member of the July 20 Plot, a conspiracy among high-ranking Wehrmacht officers to assassinate German dictator Adolf Hitler in 1944....

, the German officer who provided the plastic explosive
Plastic explosive
Plastic explosive is a specialised form of explosive material. It is a soft and hand moldable solid material. Plastic explosives are properly known as putty explosives within the field of explosives engineering....

s used in the bomb, escaped detection and survived the war. He was the second to last survivor of those involved in the plot and died on 1 May 2008 aged 90.

As a result of the coup, every member of the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 was required to reswear his loyalty oath, by name, to Hitler and, on 24 July 1944, the military salute was replaced throughout the armed forces with the Hitler Salute
Hitler salute
The Nazi salute, or Hitler salute , was a gesture of greeting in Nazi Germany usually accompanied by saying, Heil Hitler! ["Hail Hitler!"], Heil, mein Führer ["Hail, my leader!"], or Sieg Heil! ["Hail victory!"]...

 in which the arm was outstretched and the salutation Heil Hitler was given.

Planned government

The conspirators were earlier designated positions in secret to form a government that would take office after the assassination of Hitler were it to prove successful. Because of the plot's failure, such a government never rose to power and most of its members were executed. The following were appointed these roles as of July 1944:
  • Generaloberst Ludwig Beck
    Ludwig Beck
    Generaloberst Ludwig August Theodor Beck was a German general and Chief of the German General Staff during the early years of the Nazi regime in Germany before World War II....

     (Army) – President
  • Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
    Carl Friedrich Goerdeler
    Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was a monarchist conservative German politician, executive, economist, civil servant and opponent of the Nazi regime...

     (ex-DNVP
    German National People's Party
    The German National People's Party was a national conservative party in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. Before the rise of the NSDAP it was the main nationalist party in Weimar Germany composed of nationalists, reactionary monarchists, völkisch, and antisemitic elements, and...

    ) – Chancellor
  • Wilhelm Leuschner
    Wilhelm Leuschner
    Wilhelm Leuschner was a social-democratic politician who opposed the Third Reich....

     (SPD
    Social Democratic Party of Germany
    The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany...

    ) – Vice-Chancellor
  • Paul Löbe
    Paul Löbe
    Paul Löbe was a German politician and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany .-Life and career:...

     (SPD) – President of the Reichstag
  • Julius Leber
    Julius Leber
    Julius Leber was a German politician of the SPD and a member of the German Resistance against the Nazi régime.-Early life:...

     (SPD) or Eugen Bolz
    Eugen Bolz
    Eugen Anton Bolz was a German politician and a member of the resistance to the Nazi régime.- Life :Born in Rottenburg am Neckar, Eugen Bolz was his parents' twelfth child. His father, Joseph Bolz, was a salesman. His mother was Maria Theresia Bolz . Bolz studied law in Tübingen and there became a...

     (Centre Party) – Minister of the Interior
  • Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg
    Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg
    Friedrich-Werner Graf von der Schulenburg was a German diplomat who served as the last German ambassador to the Soviet Union before Operation Barbarossa. He began his diplomatic career before World War I, serving as consul and ambassador in several countries...

     or Ulrich von Hassell
    Ulrich von Hassell
    Ulrich von Hassell was a German diplomat during World War II. A member of the German Resistance against German dictator Adolf Hitler, Hassell was executed in the aftermath of the failed July 20 plot.- Family :...

     – Foreign Minister
  • Ewald Loeser
    Ewald Loeser
    Ewald Oskar Ludwig Loeser was a German lawyer, a board member of Krupp AG and a member of the resistance to Nazism....

     – Minister of Finance
  • Friedrich Olbricht
    Friedrich Olbricht
    General Friedrich Olbricht was a German general and one of the plotters involved in the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia on 20 July 1944.-Early life:...

     (Army) – Minister of War
  • Hans Oster
    Hans Oster
    Hans Oster was a German Army general, deputy head of the Abwehr under Wilhelm Canaris, and an opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. He was a leading figure of the German resistance from 1938 to 1943.-Early career:...

     (Army) – President of the Reichskriegsgericht (military supreme court)
  • Hans Koch
    Hans Koch
    Hans Koch was a German lawyer, a member of the Confessional Church and a member of the German resistance against Nazism.- Biography :...

     (Confessing Church
    Confessing Church
    The Confessing Church was a Protestant schismatic church in Nazi Germany that arose in opposition to government-sponsored efforts to nazify the German Protestant church.-Demographics:...

    ) – President of the Reichsgericht (supreme court)
  • Bernhard Letterhaus
    Bernhard Letterhaus
    Bernhard Letterhaus was a German Catholic Trade Unionist and member of the resistance to Nazism.He grew up in Barmen, Wuppertal and after an apprenticeship in a textile factory, he was an active member of the Association of Christian textile workers...

     (catholic trade unionist) – Reconstruction Minister (Minister without portfolio if not appointed)
  • Karl Blessing
    Karl Blessing
    Dr. Karl Blessing was a German banker. It was proposed that he would have been the Minister of Economics or President of the Reichsbank if the 20 July plot to kill Adolf Hitler had succeeded...

     – Minister of Economics or President of the Reichsbank
  • Paul Lejeune-Jung
    Paul Lejeune-Jung
    Paul Adolf Franz Lejeune-Jung, was a German economist, politician, syndic in the pulp industry, and resistance fighter against Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.-Early life:Lejeune-Jung's roots were in an old Huguenot family in Berlin...

     (DNVP) – Minister of Economics
  • Andreas Hermes
    Andreas Hermes
    Andreas Hermes was a German Christian Democratic Union politician, agricultural scientist, Finance Minister of the Weimar Republic, and a member of the resistance to Nazism.- Life :...

     (Centre Party) – Minister of Agriculture
  • Josef Wirmer
    Josef Wirmer
    Josef Wirmer was a German jurist and resistance fighter against the Nazi régime.- Life :Born in Paderborn, Josef Wirmer was from a Catholic family of teachers. His father was a Gymnasium headmaster. After his Abitur in Warburg he studied law in Freiburg and Berlin...

     (Centre Party) – Minister of Justice
  • Henning von Tresckow
    Henning von Tresckow
    Generalmajor Herrmann Karl Robert "Henning" von Tresckow was a Major General in the German Wehrmacht who organized German resistance against Adolf Hitler. He attempted to assassinate Hitler in March 1943 and drafted the Valkyrie plan for a coup against the German government...

     (Army) – Chief of Police


Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

 was listed in several notes of the conspirators as a possible Minister of Armaments; however, most of these notes stated Speer should not be approached until after Hitler was dead and one conjectural government chart had a question mark beside Speer's name. This most likely saved Speer from arrest by the SS in addition to Speer being one of Hitler's closest and most trusted friends.

The only German political force which was not involved, other than the Nazi Party, was the Communist Party
Communist Party of Germany
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956...

 (KPD).

Films

  • 1951: The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel
    The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel
    The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel is a 1951 biographical film about Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in the later stages of World War II. It stars James Mason in the title role, was directed by Henry Hathaway, and was based on the book Rommel by Brigadier Desmond Young, who served in the Indian Army in...

    , with James Mason
    James Mason
    James Neville Mason was an English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. Mason remained a powerful figure in the industry throughout his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as three Golden Globes .- Early life :Mason was born in Huddersfield, in the...

     as Rommel
    Erwin Rommel
    Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

  • 1955: Es geschah am 20. Juli, a docudrama
    Docudrama
    In film, television programming and staged theatre, docudrama is a documentary-style genre that features dramatized re-enactments of actual historical events. As a neologism, the term is often confused with docufiction....

    , with Bernhard Wicki as Stauffenberg
  • 1955: Der 20. Juli
    Der 20. Juli
    Der 20. Juli is a German feature film on the failed July 20, 1944 attempt at assassinating Adolf Hitler. Falk Harnack directed and co-wrote the 1955 film's script. Wolfgang Preiss won the German Federal Film Award for his role as the rebel army officer, Claus von Stauffenberg.The film has a...

    , with Wolfgang Preiss
    Wolfgang Preiss
    Wolfgang Preiss was a German theatre, film and television actor.The son of a teacher, in the early 1930s Preiss studied philosophy, German and drama. He also took private acting classes with Hans Schlenck, making his stage début in Munich in 1932...

     as Stauffenberg
  • 1967: The Night of the Generals
    The Night of the Generals
    The Night of the Generals is a 1967 suspense thriller film directed by Anatole Litvak. Set during World War II, the story was adapted from the novel of the same name by Hans Hellmut Kirst. It stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay, Donald Pleasence, Joanna Pettet and Philippe Noiret.The...

    , directed by Anatole Litvak
    Anatole Litvak
    Anatole Litvak was a Ukrainian-born filmmaker who wrote, directed, and produced films in a various countries and languages...

  • 1968: Claus Graf Stauffenberg
  • 1988: War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance
    War and Remembrance is a novel by Herman Wouk, published in 1978, which is the sequel to The Winds of War. It continues the story of the extended Henry family and the Jastrow family starting on 15 December 1941 and ending on 6 August 1945. This novel was adapted into a mini-series presented on...

    , Part 10, a television version of the novel by Herman Wouk
    Herman Wouk
    Herman Wouk is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author of novels including The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance.-Biography:...

  • 1990: Stauffenberg – Verschwörung gegen Hitler
  • 1990: The Plot to Kill Hitler
    The Plot to Kill Hitler (film)
    #The Plot to Kill Hitler is a 1990 television movie. It is about the 20 July 1944 plot by German officers to kill Adolf Hitler. Brad Davis stars as Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg who plants a bomb in the conference room of the Führer's headquarters in East Prussia.- Plot summary :“The...

    , with Brad Davis
    Brad Davis (actor)
    Robert Creel "Brad" Davis was an American actor, known for starring in the 1978 film Midnight Express.-Early life:...

     as Stauffenberg
  • 1992: The Restless Conscience
  • 2004: Die Stunde der Offiziere
    Die Stunde der Offiziere
    Die Stunde der Offiziere is a German semi-documentary movie of 2003 telling in chronological order about the German resistance attempts to kill Adolf Hitler and seize power in Germany in the July 20 plot of 1944....

    , a semi-documentary movie
  • 2004: Stauffenberg
    Stauffenberg (Film)
    Stauffenberg is a German-Austrian TV movie released in 2004 by Das Erste , about Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and the 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler....

    , by Jo Baier, with Sebastian Koch
    Sebastian Koch
    -Life and career:Koch was born in Karlsruhe and grew up in Stuttgart. His mother raised him alone, and he spent some time in the children's home where she worked...

     as Stauffenberg
  • 2004: Days That Shook the World
    Days That Shook the World
    Days That Shook the World is a British documentary television series that premiered on the BBC on September 17, 2003. The programme features various milestones throughout history. Currently in its third season, it airs on the BBC, The History Channel, and Viasat History. The show also currently...

     – S2EP5 Conspiracy to kill
    , a BBC2
    BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

     documentary
  • 2007: DVD Ruins of the Reich DVD R.J. Adams (attempted assaination and ruins of Wolfsschanze)
  • 2008: Valkyrie
    Valkyrie (film)
    Valkyrie is a 2008 American historical thriller film set in Nazi Germany during World War II. The film depicts the 20 July plot in 1944 by German army officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler and to use the Operation Valkyrie national emergency plan to take control of the country...

    , with Tom Cruise
    Tom Cruise
    Thomas Cruise Mapother IV , better known as Tom Cruise, is an American film actor and producer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and he has won three Golden Globe Awards....

     as Stauffenberg
  • 2008: Operation Valkyrie: The Stauffenberg Plot to Kill Hitler, a video documentary
  • 2009: Stauffenberg - Die wahre Geschichte, a television docudrama
    Docudrama
    In film, television programming and staged theatre, docudrama is a documentary-style genre that features dramatized re-enactments of actual historical events. As a neologism, the term is often confused with docufiction....


See also

  • Assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler
    Assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler
    This is an incomplete list of documented, realized attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler.All attempts occurred in the German Reich, except where noted...

  • The German resistance
    German Resistance
    The German resistance was the opposition by individuals and groups in Germany to Adolf Hitler or the National Socialist regime between 1933 and 1945. Some of these engaged in active plans to remove Adolf Hitler from power and overthrow his regime...

  • List of members of the 20 July plot
  • Operation Foxley
    Operation Foxley
    Operation Foxley was a 1944 plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler, made by the British Special Operations Executive . Although detailed preparations were made, no attempt was made to carry out the plan...

     – British plot to assassinate Hitler using a sniper
    Sniper
    A sniper is a marksman who shoots targets from concealed positions or distances exceeding the capabilities of regular personnel. Snipers typically have specialized training and distinct high-precision rifles....

  • Operation Spark (1940)
    Operation Spark (1940)
    Operation Spark was a plan generated in the early 1940s by German anti-Nazis to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Another Operation Spark was conducted by the Red Army during the siege of Leningrad in 1943....

     – plans generated in the early 1940s by German anti-Nazis to assassinate Hitler
  • Operation Valkyrie
    Operation Valkyrie
    Operation Valkyrie was an emergency continuity of government operations plan developed in Nazi Germany for the Territorial Reserve Army of Germany to execute and implement in case of a general breakdown in civil order of the nation...


External links


  • Grafik - Lagebesprechung Wolfsschanze, 20. Juli 1944
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